FRANKFORT, Ky. – Heavy rain and a break from sub-freezing temperatures earlier this week melted snowpack still lingering from the last major winter storm to hit Kentucky and caused flooding just as another potent system took aim on the state.
The Weather Channel dubbed it, “Winter Storm Thor.” Anglers itching to grab a rod and reel cursed it as they reached for snow shovels again.
The arrival of March is the start of a new license year in Kentucky and reassurance that spring is near. One of the best places to put a 2015-16 fishing license to use in early spring is at a Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) lake.
“As soon as you get the first couple of warm days in March, take full advantage of the nice weather and break that cabin fever,” said Dane Balsman, urban fisheries program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
FINs lakes provide good fishing opportunities close to home.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife stocks these 40 lakes with rainbow trout and catfish. The largemouth bass and sunfish populations are closely monitored and supported with stockings as needed. This year, the department plans to stock a total of 148,750 rainbow trout, 113,900 catfish and 30,000 hybrid sunfish in FINs lakes, Balsman said.
Catfish and trout are scheduled to be stocked this month. Hybrid sunfish will be stocked in early June.
Stocking schedules are posted online and updated frequently. On the department’s homepage at fw.ky.gov, click on the “Fish” tab and choose “Recreational Fishing” from the dropdown menu. A link to the FINs page is listed under the section, “Where to Fish.”
A prolonged period of extreme cold in Kentucky iced over many FINs lakes and delayed some February trout stockings. In northern Kentucky, for example, Camp Ernst Lake in Boone County, Southgate and Alexandria Community Park lakes in Campbell County, Middleton Mills Long Pond and Shelterhouse Pond and Prisoners Lake in Kenton County will receive their February and March trout stockings this month because conditions prevented stocking last month.
Fish stocked before the deep freeze set in this winter will be primed once the ice melts.
“We stocked a lot of these lakes the first week or two of February, right before they froze,” Balsman said. “As soon as this ice comes off, there are going to be a lot of those trout that are going to be hungry and ready to feed.”
Daily limits for FINs lakes remain five rainbow trout, four catfish, one largemouth bass over 15 inches and 15 bluegill or other sunfish.
Trout may find brightly-colored dough bait, corn or red worms fished on the bottom or beneath a bobber to their liking. A small in-line spinner may entice a trout into biting as well. In the spring, Balsman sees catfish anglers having success using worms and chicken, shrimp or hot dogs marinated in strawberry-flavored drink mix. Try a small feathered jig, commonly called a Pop Eye in Kentucky, tipped with a wax worm fished under a bobber for hybrid sunfish.
Anglers ages 16 and older will need a statewide fishing license, unless license exempt. Licensed anglers who intend to keep their trout must also purchase a trout permit. The permit is included in the Sportsman’s and Senior licenses. Holding a trout in a livewell or fish basket or on a stringer and later replacing it is considered culling, which is illegal.
Anglers are encouraged to exercise care when handling a fish that they intend to release.
“These lakes do get a lot of pressure and a lot of anglers fish them,” Balsman said. “From the creel surveys that we’ve done, we see the harvest almost mirrors the number of fish that we put in. But the number caught actually exceeds what’s been stocked. We think these fish are being caught multiple times before ultimately being harvested. If you’re serious about catch and release, practice good technique and leave the fish in decent shape.”
An outing to the nearest FINs lake in spring is a great way to get the family outdoors, or for novice anglers to gain some experience. Best of all, it’s a surefire way to forget the cold and the snow.
Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.